The Meat Market space is cold on this winter’s night in Melbourne. It feels like carnival time in Mantua. Anthony Lyons’ early music/electronic Reconfiguring Orpheus comes out of the speakers. The layered texture gives a modern and edgy slant to Claudio Monteverdi’s music. Conventions are broken and expectations rise as Melbourne’s early music practitioners, singers, musicians, scholars and connoisseurs gather for the rare occasion of a performance of Alessandro Striggio and Claudio Monteverdi’s favola in musica L’Orfeo (Mantua, 1607).

In the hands of recognised scholar-performers led by Professor Jane Davidson, The Tale of Orpheus honours the fundamental ideals of the culture that cradled the famous early opera. La Musica opens with a prologue to ascertain her powers. It is by stirring the human passions that she “can calm each troubled heart, and now with noble anger, now with love, can kindle the most frigid minds … [to] inspire souls with a longing for the sonorous harmony of heaven’s lyre.”

David Greco, OrfeoDavid Greco as Orfeo. Photo © Sarah Walker 

The mise en scène is contemporary and sparing. Imaginative lighting creates a mysterious ambience and brings attention to facial expressions, while clever use...